Spinach E.coli Outbreak Tops List of '06 Food Related Stories

NEW YORK -- News surrounding a particularly virulent strain of E. coli bacteria associated with contaminated spinach topped the charts as the country's No. 1 food-related news story in 2006, according to a recent survey of the nation's food editors.

When asked if the recent rash of food scares will motivate people to shop at green markets so that they know where their fruits and vegetables originate, however, 63 percent of editors said no.

The survey was conducted by Hunter Public Relations, which reached out to more than 1,200 food editors across the country.

Listed at No. 2 in the survey was the school soft drink ban. In response to the growing threat of lawsuits and state legislation, the country's top three soft-drink companies had announced that they would remove sweetened carbonated soft drinks and iced teas, from school cafeterias and vending machines.

Securing the No. 3 spot was the organic goes mainstream story. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest grocer, said it had plans to roll out a complete selection of organic foods in its 4,000 stores. Just as significant, the company said it would price all this organic food at only a tiny premium over its conventional food.

At No. 4 in the survey was the report issued by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services urging food companies to develop products that are more nutritious and to "review and revise" their marketing practices.

Putting the "whole" back in "whole grains" claimed the No. 5 spot, while FDA's report encouraging restaurants to include lower-calorie choices in their marketing efforts and on their menus earned the number six position. Not far behind was New York City's proposed ban on trans fat at restaurants.

Voters ranked stories about the negative aspects of high-fructose corn syrup No. 8 in the survey. A study claiming low-fat diets do not protect women against heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, or colon cancer No. 9, Rachael Ray's launch of a one-hour daytime syndicated show, "The Rachael Ray Show," grabbed the No. 10 spot, according to the survey.

Food editors also said whole grain products, organic foods, and ready-to-eat meals were likely to be popular topics in 2007.
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